Director and actor Faruk Kabir is an industry kid. His maternal grandfather, Murad, was a well-known character actor. His uncle, Raza Murad, too is an actor and so is his sister, Sanober Kabir. His mother Sabhia is a costume designer. Faruk started his career at a young age as an assistant director to Aziz Mirza in Phir Bhi Dil Hai Hindustani and then Santosh Sivan in Asoka. He made his directorial debut with a short film, The Awakening, in 2006 which starred Ajay Devgn. His debut as a feature film director was Allah Ke Banday (2010), which he directed and acted in as well. Recently he was in news for his film Khuda Haafiz starring Vidyut Jammwal and Shivaleeka Oberoi, which reportedly did well on the OTT circuit. He isn’t new to the OTT space. In fact, he can be said to be one of the pioneers exploring this new platform. He came up with a horror web series called Shockers, starring Dia Mirza, Kalki Koechlin, Rajat Barmecha, Amit Sadh, Prateik Babbar and Amyra Dastur for Hotstar in 2016. He also directed AbNormal for Zee5.
Exclusive Director Faruk Kabir is on a high after the success of Khuda Haafiz
Faruk says he loves to make real-life stories. His first film Allah Ke Banday was based on a newspaper report he read. AbNormal was based on the struggle of the LGBTQ activists. “I go forward with the belief that if a real-life story compels me to weave a film around it then it’s a story worth telling. And I incorporate my own feelings towards that story while making the film. The finished product is a mixture of fiction and reality mixed with my perceptions,” he explains. Intrestingly, he decided to make a love story with Vidyut, who is a bonafide action star. Faruk says he saw something in Vidyut that went beyond the popular perception. Though the film had action, Faruk convinced Vidyut that the film won’t showcase his standard action moves. “My protagonist isn’t a trained killer. He takes to violence as a last resort. He goes berserk when pushed against the wall. I convinced Vidyut that I won’t be showing off his six-pack abs. He won’t be given an action-star entry. He’ll be emoting more and kicking and punching less in the film. Thankfully, he agreed.”
Faruk tragically lost his father just before he started shooting for Khuda Haafiz. He was constantly in and out of the hospital during the pre-production of the film because of his father’s illness. In fact, he buried his father and was giving a reading to Aahana Kumra and Vidyut the next day. He was quite close to his father and it was tough for him to move on so soon. Vidyut and Aahana could sense his unease and spontaneously reached out to him. “They supported me when I needed it the most. We just talked that day about what matters the most to us and that conversation, about family, about friends, about memories, acted as a catharsis. I was able to go back to the film after that,” he shares.
He’s also close to his mother, Sabiha, who inculcated strong work ethics in him. She used to work till two in the night at times to meet her deadline. Back then, a costume was made in different places. “The zardosi work was done somewhere else, cutting was done elsewhere and then my mother and her master tailor used to put it all together. Now she has stopped working and I have kept her table where the final stitching was done as a souvenir. “I use it to write my scripts,” he reveals. Faruk adds that his love for the Urdu literature, towards Urdu poetry, in particular, has sprung from his mother as she was interested in it and knows many couplets by heart.
Being a director wasn’t easy. He has gone through his share of rejections. Even Khuda Haafiz’s script took a long time to get greenlighted. Faruk doesn’t believe in seeking outside validation. He says one should stick to one’s beliefs and not lose hope and one day your convictions and hard work will shine through. That’s the reason he hasn’t gone through the big banner route either. “Rejections motivate you to do better, work harder. One shouldn’t get disheartened by them,” he muses. He says being a creative person, his only goal is that he should get the means to express his creativity. The form doesn’t matter. “I’ve been an ad filmmaker also, and have created commercials with Madhuri Dixit and Virat Kohli and many other celebs. Ads help you become better storytellers as you have to convey the message in a short span of time. They help you push the envelope.”
Faruk is a huge admirer of perhaps the greatest storyteller of them all, William Shakespeare. He goes back to reading the Bard whenever he hits the writing block. Faruk is awed by the sense of drama Shakespeare created in his plays. He also loves the emotional undercurrent between characters and psychological profiling, which has proven to be so apt. “The more we read Shakespeare, the better we understand the art of writing. I’ll even go out on a limb and say that it helps you understand the world better,” he gushes. His passion for writing took him to New York, where he learnt screenwriting professionally. He mentions that there are a lot of processes involved in converting an idea into a screenplay. “Structure is important. Once you know how to structure your thoughts the rest falls into place. My New York sojourn opened my eyes to new possibilities. I benefited a lot from the experience.”
There are those who say that one learns better on the job than in a classroom. Kabir has worked as an assistant to both Aziz Mirza and Santosh Sivan and values that experience as well. He used to be amazed by how much Aziz wrote and rewrote the screenplay. Like any youngster, he was awed by the presence of Shah Rukh Khan on the sets at first but later started taking his duties seriously. “I started taking notes on Aziz Mirza’s ideas. They helped me understand how the mind of a director works. From Santosh, on the other hand, I picked up the technical aspects of filmmaking. Like how lighting is important, and so on. You can say that I had the best of both the worlds, during my journeyman days.” The other directors he admires are Sanjay Leela Bhansali, Sriram Raghvan, Meghna Gulzar and Zoya Akhtar from Bollywood, and Alfonso Cuarón and Christopher Nolan from Hollywood.
Apart from his late father and his mother, the other person whom he considers his pillar of support is his wife Rukhsar. It’s her second marriage with him. They were seeing each other for six years before tying the knot in 2010. Faruk says they’ve had a blissful decade together. He jokes that she kills all his demons. “She wasn’t very impressed by me ever since our courtship days,” he laughs. “And remains both my staunchest supporter and my harshest critic.” Rukshar is busy doing ads and serials and has learnt to balance her career and life. “We both work in creative spaces so we understand the pressures. We support and encourage each other in our respective ventures. Half the battle is won if you have a supportive partner,” he comments.
He has no regrets about taking the path he has chosen. He has taken both the bouquets and the brickbats in his stride. One lesson he’s learnt is to always stay grounded and focus on getting better. “I think the challenge really is to become better than your last attempt. That’s what I’ve always aimed at.” He looks at direction as something that allows him to indulge in his creativity. A director has to take ownership of his actions and has to make his whole team believe in his vision and invest in it. Says he, “I live for the high of seeing a project through. It’s the best feeling in the world.”